THE NAME OF THE ROSE
Who, in the name of God, is getting away with murder?
Although the film is set in an Italian abbey during the 14th Century, THE NAME OF THE ROSE ($20) is very much a Sherlock Holmes style mystery. In fact, the allusions to Sherlock Holmes are certainly within the story itself, with the central character of THE NAME OF THE ROSE being named William of Baskerville. Now, as someone who thoroughly enjoys Sherlock Holmes mysteries, it should come as no surprise that THE NAME OF THE ROSE is a personal favorite, especially since the movie is so well crafted and features an absolutely first rate cast of actors. Taking the lead in this mystery is Sean Connery as the intensely logical Franciscan monk William of Baskerville, who is traveling with his young novice Adso of Melk (Christian Slater).
As the film opens, William and Adso arrive at an abbey in the north of Italy, where the elder monk is set to participate in a religious debate. Upon entering the grounds, William notices a fresh grave in the abbey cemetery and learns of the suspicious death of one of the younger monks. With some of the older monks given to religious hysteria, there is talk that "the devil" walks the corridors of the abbey, thus William begins an exercise in deductive reasoning to uncover how the young man really died. What follows is a deep and perplexing mystery involving a secret being hidden within the dark recesses of the abbey that leads to the deaths of several other monks, not to mention, bringing William face to face with his old nemesis- a sadistic inquisitor named Bernardo Gui (F. Murray Abraham). The cast of THE NAME OF THE ROSE also features Michael Lonsdale, Feodor Chaliapin Jr., William Hickey, Valentina Vargas and Ron Perlman.
Warner Home Video has made THE NAME OF THE ROSE available on DVD in a 1.78:1 wide screen presentation that has been enhanced for playback on 16:9 displays. This is a very good transfer of some rather difficult material. With its 14th century setting predating electric lighting, the filmís cinematography goes out of it way to avoid the look of unnatural lighting, hence THE NAME OF THE ROSE has the tendency to be a rather dark and moody motion picture. When natural lighting is at its best, the image appears relatively crisp and produces a good level of detail. Colors tend to be rather subdued, which reflects the drabness of the abbey setting and the monkís attire. Flesh tones appear accurate and sequences with warm firelight produce an appealing glow. Blacks are deep, whites are crisp and contrast is fairly smooth. Shadow detail is restricted in many sequences, which is attributable to the limited lighting and the film stocks that were in use during the mid-eighties, rather than being a flaw in the transfer. Other than some minor blemishes, the film elements are in good shape. A noticeable grain structure is present during most of the proceedings, but it gives the image a nice, film like quality. Digital compression artifacts are never a cause for concern.
For this release, THE NAME OF THE ROSE has had its soundtrack upgraded to a Dolby Digital 5.1 channel rendering. With the film being primarily a talky drama from the 1980ís, there are limited opportunities for the 5.1 encoding to show off its full capabilities. Ambient sounds and musical fill seem to be the biggest contributions of the surround channels, but they are well implemented. The forward soundstage creates a broad sense of space and provides good channel separation. Dialogue is cleanly rendered and always intelligible, despite some of the accents of some of the actors. Fidelity is just fine for James Hornerís minimalist score, as well as the occasional chanting of the monks. The bass channel is very solid, although the material doesnít lend itself to ground shaking depths. No other language tracks are provided, but English, French and Spanish subtitles have been included.
Music underscores the basic interactive menus, which allow one access to the standard scene selection and set up features, as well as a few supplements. Director Jean-Jacques Annaud is on hand to provide a detailed and truly excellent running audio commentary, which looks at the nuts and bolts of this period production, as well as covering some of the personalities involved. Produced in German, The Abbey Of Crime: Umberto Eco's Name Of The Rose is a vintage forty-three minute program that looks behind-the-scenes at the making of the film. Photo Video Journey With Jean-Jacques Annaud runs sixteen minutes and allows the director another opportunity to discuss various aspects of the production. A theatrical trailer closes out the supplements.
THE NAME OF THE ROSE is a personal favorite and a film that I am delighted to see finally released on DVD. Not only is the film a terrific Sherlock Holmes styled mystery, THE NAME OF THE ROSE also features marvelous performances from a group of first rate actors. As for the DVD, it looks and sounds just fine, plus it includes a number of worthwhile supplements. If you are a fan, youíll want to add THE NAME OF THE ROSE to your collection. If you have never experienced this marvelous film, then the DVD is certainly a great way to become acquainted with it. Recommended.
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